By the numbers: AYP hurdles are math, English

Published 8:13 am Friday, August 21, 2009

The five public schools in this area that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress during the 2008-09 school year failed to achieve the designation because of missed benchmarks in English and math.

But every public school, regardless of whether it made AYP this year or not, faces a bigger challenge. This year, 81 percent of students had to pass English and 79 percent had to pass math for their school to make AYP.

Next year, those numbers will each go up four percentage points.

“It is absolutely getting progressively more difficult (to make AYP), especially in light of the current budget issues in the state and in the nation,” Katherine Goff, the public information officer for Isle of Wight County Schools, said Thursday. “We’re looking at more and greater benchmarks to achieve, while facing some tighter budgetary constraints.”

She adds, “That does make it difficult, but it is a challenge to overcome.”

Federal law requires that a school must achieve in 29 target areas across several subgroups of students to earn AYP status. Missing one of these benchmarks could cause a school, or even an entire division, to not make AYP.

Students from all three public school divisions in this area were divided into at least five subsets: all students, black, white, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged. Southampton and Isle of Wight counties also had a sixth subset for Hispanic students, and Isle of Wight alone had a seventh subset for students who are limited in their English proficiency.

S.P. Morton Elementary School in Franklin did not make AYP this year because it missed goals in four target areas: two in English and two in math. While English scores either improved or remained unchanged from last year, math scores at the elementary school fell across the board.

Black students at S.P. Morton raised their English pass rate by a single percentage point from last year, posting a 77. Economically disadvantaged students fared the same as last year and passed at a rate of 76 percent. Both numbers fell short of the state goal of 81.

The same two subgroups missed the mark in math as well when they both posted pass rates of 73 percent. Last year, black students and economically disadvantaged students earned pass rates in math of 84 and 81 percent, respectively.

Bev Rabil, the director of instruction for Franklin City Public Schools, said Thursday that the division would increase math and reading coaching at S.P. Morton and focus on walk-through administrative training for all three of the division’s principals.

“We will continue initiatives that we have had in place in the past,” Rabil said. “Of course we are aware that AYP is a moving target. (S.P. Morton) has many successes; we’re just moving toward a higher target with those students.”

Rabil said the division would also be developing “I Can Do It” data charts at all three schools. The data charts are tailored for each individual student and have specific plans for the success based on checkpoint data.

Asked if the division was focusing primarily on English or math, Rabil said, “The focus will be on both. We are bringing in the additional math coaching, which we have not had (at S.P. Morton) before. One thing we know from our data analysis about math, it is about layered word problems and that also is a reading skill. So we will continue to focus on both.”

Two elementary schools — Riverdale and Meherrin — did not make AYP in the Southampton County Public Schools division.

Riverdale did not make AYP during its first year of operation because it fell short in five target areas, two in English and three in math. For the third year in a row, black students did not make the grade in English, and economically disadvantaged students fell short in math. Those groups scored 66 and 67, respectively. All students earned 77s in both English and math.

Only 61 percent of black students at Riverdale passed math. That figure is the lowest achievement mark across all three public school divisions, excluding students with disabilities.

Meherrin failed to make AYP when it missed one benchmark. Seventy-six percent of black students passed English, but this was a 2 percent improvement from last year.

Charles Turner, the superintendent for Southampton County Public Schools, did not return a phone message or e-mail seeking comment on what the division is doing to improve AYP scores for the upcoming year.

In Isle of Wight Public Schools, two schools did not make AYP: Windsor Middle School and Smithfield High School. Both schools missed the AYP designation by a low score in one target area.

At Windsor Middle, black students passed English at a rate of 77 percent, a decrease of three percentage points from last year.

Smithfield High’s missed target area was for economically disadvantaged students in math, who passed at a rate of 78 percent. That score improved two percentage points from last year but fell just short of the state goal of 79.

Despite not making AYP, Windsor Middle posted significant gains in math — at least nine percentage points across all student subgroups. Students with disabilities posted an 18 percent increase, from 41 to 59 percent. Economically disadvantaged students scored 13 percentage points higher, from 59 to 72, while black students improved 12 points, from 53 to 65. Combined, all students fared 10 percentage points better from last year, an increase from 66 to 76 percent passing. White students improved their score nine percentage points, from 70 to 79.

Smithfield High’s math scores either improved or remained unchanged from last year’s scores across all student subgroups.

“Our overall goal is that every student succeeds and has the skills and preparation to be a lifelong learner and succeed beyond K-12 education,” Goff said. “We are striving to continue to improve those areas and reach the goals set. While it does get harder each year, we believe our students and staff are up to that challenge.”

Asked what the Isle of Wight division is doing to improve AYP scores for next year, Goff said each school and its leadership team is developing an improvement plan.

“They are working on those plans as we’re coming back to school,” Goff said. “They’re addressing some specific strategies that they will present to (Superintendent Dr. Michael McPherson). I have not seen those strategies just yet, because they are still working on some of that as we approach the new school year.”